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Gary Johnson on scandals: Don’t let Obama (or Congress) off the hook

By   /   May 23, 2013  /   No Comments

(In light of the recent scandals involving the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Obama administration’s Justice Department seizing phone records from journalists, New Mexico Watchdog asked former two-term governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson to offer his opinion on the controversies. Here’s Gov. Johnson’s response:)

By Gary Johnson │ Special to New Mexico Watchdog

For the past couple of weeks, the politicians in Washington, DC, have been engaged in their beloved sport of chasing “scandals.”

First, they were handed the gift of an Internal Revenue Service admission that certain non-profit organizations have been singled out for outrageous degrees of scrutiny and harassment.

"POLITICIANS NEED TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR:" Former Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks out on recent Capitol Hill scandals.

“POLITICIANS NEED TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR:” Former Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks out on recent Capitol Hill scandals.

And almost simultaneously, it came to light that the Department of Justice has been secretly spying on journalists — obtaining phone records, reading emails, and even tracking some of those journalists’ movements.

Congress is holding hearings as fast as they can schedule them, and the demands for “heads to roll” are growing every day.

Let me be clear: I don’t disagree that IRS harassment — targeted or otherwise — is scandalous. Nor do I disagree that it is, indeed, chilling that our government is spying on journalists. I certainly agree that heads should roll.

But … while the frenzy over these scandals is perhaps appropriate, we cannot let Congress and the politicians off the hook as they stumble over one another trying to get in front of the TV cameras.

The IRS did not appear out of nowhere. It is entirely a creation of decades of law-making and special interest politics that have produced a federal monster with almost 100,000 employees armed with 74,000 pages of rules and regulations. What do those regulations do? They enforce laws designed with remarkable elegance to reward, punish or manipulate almost every aspect of our lives and businesses.

It is not even a little shocking that a government given that much power and that many tools will abuse that power. If a parent hands a teenager the keys to a car with a case of beer in the back seat, should that parent be outraged when the kid gets a DUI or hurts himself or someone else?

Don’t forget. It was President Obama who stood before Congress in a State of the Union speech and decried the unfettered influence of non-profit advocacy groups. Now, he is flabbergasted that his 100,000 person IRS is making life difficult for some of those same groups.

The same goes for the “shocking” revelations that the Department of Justice is secretly obtaining citizens’ phone records, emails, and other personal information. Yes, when they do it to journalists, the stakes are raised a bit and legitimate concerns about the First Amendment come into play. But when we see members of Congress and Senators expressing their outrage, shouldn’t we be asking if they voted for the Patriot Act or any of the other laws that authorized DOJ to go forth and do those outrageous things?

In the frantic post 9/11 rush to “protect” us, both the Administration and Congress enacted laws and issued directives that, in a nutshell, said: “Do whatever you have to do, even if it means trampling on a few of the very rights we are supposed to be preserving.” Yes, at that painful juncture, a great many Americans were OK with that. But today, we are still living with those decisions — and those same politicians are somehow surprised that the behemoth they created is getting out of hand?

Perhaps Congress and all the outraged politicians should take a step back from the TV cameras and find a mirror. Raking bureaucrats over the coals when something goes awry is easy.

The hard part is facing the reality that those bureaucrats didn’t create the bloated government and the over-reaching authority that not only allows, but encourages, abuse.

If they truly need scapegoats, the mirror is the place to look.

(Gary Johnson is the Honorary Chairman of the Our America Initiative.)

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Since 2010, Rob Nikolewski has covered New Mexico politics and investigated fraud, waste and abuse in government. He also writes an opinion column in the Sunday editions of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Rob joined New Mexico Watchdog after 20 years in television as a sports anchor and reporter. He anchored at MSNBC, New York City, Boston, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Reno and Boise, winning three regional Emmy awards along the way. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in public administration from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor's degree in journalism from Trinity University in San Antonio.

  • Sherry Heim

    Once again, Gary Johnson is the voice of reason. We are all so concerned about these issues but neglect to realize that we, the people, are the target of these same injustices on a daily basis. Citizens are targeted and now, thanks to the Patriot Act and the NDAA are targeted “legally” and outside of the limitations given to government by our Constitution. We cannot buy safety or security by giving up our rights. It is our rights that give us the power to hold our government in check and now, through smoke and mirrors, we have allowed our government to strip us of those rights. It is up to the people to take back our freedom by voting freedom back into our political system. LIVE FREE!

  • Gentil Aquitaine

    By my reckoning, two actions of Congress and the President could make both the IRS and the DOJ scandals go away:

    1—Get rid of the extensions of the Patriot Act signed in 2011. (The Patriot Act was a bad idea from the outset.) and

    2—Reverse Citizens United. The flood of 501(c)(4) applications to the IRS since Citizens United has had much do with the inappropriate manner in which the IRS has dealt with them. Clearly, circumspect political money men have been using 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(3)s to hide dark money. In this respect, Republican and Presidential ‘outrage’ at the IRS scandal is patently disingenuous. (In fact, it is disgusting.)

    Of course, I am wholly skeptical that legislation addressing these two needs would make it to either the House or the Senate floor.

  • Ken Nelson

    Mr. Johnson,

    As usual, you are 110% correct, but it’s not just our elected representatives that need to look into the mirror, each and every one of us that votes needs to look in the mirror, and tell ourselves just who am I voting for, and why.

    Are you voting for the most handsome candidate? The tallest candidate? The one with the most sincere smile?

    We need to stop supporting the political elite, and start supporting (and voting for) REAL people, who will make a REAL difference in Washington. Until some of those people step up and run for office, just vote against whoever is IN office. Turn them over every 2, 4, 6 years, they work for US, we employ them. If we keep firing them at the end of every term, eventually, we just might get some decent people to represent us.

  • Arlette Miller

    We can’t get Citizens United overturned until we change the definition of corporations so that they are not considered people. Once that is done, and done properly, maybe public offices won’t be so blatantly for sale. Since that is unlikely, I made up a bumper sticker that says “vote them ALL out” and put it on my car.

  • Gentil Aquitaine

    Agreed. The notion of ‘voting them all out’ brings up another issue, however. How does one ‘vote them all out’ given the present two party cartel on ballot? Dissidents can vote for candidates like Gary Johnson (or Jill Stein, for whom I myself voted in 2012) but that does little to change the equation given the odds stacked against any candidate that does not run for office as Republican or a Democrat. The chances of removing or defeating either a Republican or a Democrat in any election when one is not either is so remote that it is not a viable solution to the problem. Getting round the present duopoly in American politics is a Herculean task. Regrettably, however, real change won’t happen unless it is accomplished.